Royal Challengers hope for Gayle magic
If one had to fix the 'chokers' tag to an IPL team, it would have to be on Royal Challengers Bangalore. They've reached two IPL finals and a Champions League final, finishing runners-up in all three. Faltering at the biggest stage has become a habit for a team very capable of winning titles consistently. They've got balance, big hitters, stars and a penetrative bowling attack. The squad also has a mixture of youth and experience.
The team has come a long way from the 'Test team' of 2008. Chris Gayle leads a power-packed top order, followed by Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers and India's latest sensation, Virat Kohli. Gayle was retained this year for an official amount of US$550,000, while the two big purchases were Vinay Kumar (US$1 million) and Muttiah Muralitharan (US$ 220,000). Andrew McDonald, the Victoria allrounder, was bought from Delhi Daredevils during the transfer window. Zaheer Khan, if fit, will be a valuable asset to the bowling.
Royal Challengers began with a win last year but lost the next three. The fifth was abandoned, but they made the next seven games their own. In one of those games, against Kochi Tuskers Kerala, Gayle smashed 37 off one over, the hapless bowler being Prasanth Parameswaran. Gayle made Bangalore the team to watch, and it was his hitting that led them to the top of the points table. However, they lost the first qualifying final, meaning they had to win their second qualifier against Mumbai Indians to meet Chennai again in the final. In the end, they were no match for Chennai, who batted them out of the game and dismissed Gayle for a duck.
Chris Gayle - The 'hired gun' from West Indies, probably the most sought-after Twenty20 player, has committed himself to the full season. He has been busy, though, sorting out his differences with the WICB. He's expected to be fit from the groin niggle that he had sustained during the Bangladesh Premier League.
Virat Kohli - No target is beyond reach for Kohli, who's proving to be a sensation during chases. He is clearly the best thing to come out of the rubble of Australia 2011-12. He's in the form of his life, emerging as one of the most dangerous limited-overs batsmen in the world in the last year and a half. Along with Gayle, Kohli would form a destructive pair.
Big names in
Vinay Kumar - The India fast bowler was bought back by his native Bangalore for a million dollars, one of the biggest buys at the auction. He became a changed bowler during the limited-over games in Australia, running in hard and cranking up his pace. Kumar needs to work more on his death bowling though.
Muttiah Muralitharan - Like Gayle, the former Sri Lanka offspinner is another Twenty20 player available for hire the world over. He was bought for US$220,000 from the defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Captain Daniel Vettori couldn't have asked for a better spin partner.
Below the radar
Vijay Zol - The 17-year-old smashed a remarkable unbeaten 451 for Maharashtra Under-19s against Assam Under-19s in Nasik last year. His knock even caught Virender Sehwag's attention. He has since played only one match for the Maharashtra senior side, but his lack of experience at the highest level didn't stop Bangalore from signing up an unknown.
KP Appanna - The left-arm spinner could be Bangalore's first-choice spinner if Murali doesn't play. He was Karnataka's leading wicket-taker in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament with ten wickets.
Dilshan is expected to miss the opening game, due to the second Test between Sri Lanka and England. The rest of the squad is free from international commitments.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo